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As Quebec’s Legault expands his majority, Montrealers choose opposition parties

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MONTREAL — After Monday night’s provincial election results, Montreal shows up on Quebec’s election map as a small red-and-orange island in a sea of light blue.

The blue represents François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec, which surged to a 90-seat majority in the 125-seat legislature. But as ridings around the province fell to Legault’s centre-right party, Montreal voters largely stuck to the Opposition Quebec Liberals and to left-wing Québec solidaire — the red and orange on the map.

And with the size of the provincial opposition reduced, one political expert suggests it could be Quebec’s new generation of progressive mayors who will be Legault’s true ideological “counterweight.”

As it did four years ago, Legault’s party won with only two ridings on the Island of Montreal. The CAQ picked up one new riding on the island’s east end but lost another to Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, leader of the Parti Québécois.

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Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante on Tuesday rejected the suggestion that the city is more politically isolated than ever, or that she intends to oppose the premier. She insisted that her left-wing municipal party — known for its environmental agenda and advocacy for affordable housing and for public transit — works just fine with Legault, whose base is located in the city’s suburbs and who has made a major Quebec City transport link one of his signature promises.

“In the last term, a lot of people said it will never work, the CAQ and Projet Montréal,” she said Tuesday, in reference to her party. “Well, it works, and it works because we want solutions, because we’re pragmatic.”

She said that in the past four years, her administration has partnered with Legault’s government to advance important files, including a major public transit project in the city’s east end.

She also pointed out that all four parties that won seats in the legislature are represented on the island and that three of the four leaders — Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade, Québec solidaire spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, and the PQ’s St-Pierre Plamondon — represent Montreal ridings. Several other newly elected legislature members have worked alongside the city in their past professional roles, she added.

Despite Plante’s optimism, a glance at the map reveals the political gap between Montreal and the rest of the province.

One expert said that gap can be explained by demographics. Danielle Pilette, an associate professor of strategy, social responsibility and environment at Université du Québec à Montréal, says Montrealers are younger, more educated, and more racially and linguistically diverse than Quebecers in the rest of the province.

“Montreal is aging much more slowly than its suburbs, and CAQ electors are in large part baby boomers,” she said.

Montrealers are less likely than other Quebecers to support legislation Legault brought in that strengthens French language laws and bans some civil servants from wearing religious symbols on the job. They’re also more likely to have arrived to the province as a result of immigration — a topic that was contentious throughout the campaign.

Coalition Avenir Québec candidate Jean Boulet — the incumbent immigration minister — recently drew fire for saying that 80 per cent of the province’s immigrants go to Montreal and don’t work or speak French. Legault denounced the comments and said Boulet was “disqualified” from remaining in that portfolio in the new cabinet, but the premier was also forced to apologize for statements of his own in which he drew links between immigration and violence and extremism.

With a weakened opposition in the provincial legislature, Pilette suggests it could be up to mayors to provide the real “counterweight” to Legault by highlighting issues such as poverty and a lack of affordable housing.

“It allows them to do the work of opposition and to contest government programs that are not adapted to the reality of multicultural cities or populations that are less well off,” she said.

While the province’s governing party is relatively conservative, cities across Quebec are less so. Last year’s municipal elections saw several cities across the province, including Longueuil and Sherbrooke, elect a host of younger mayors who increasingly put climate change near the top of their agendas.

Bruno Marchand, mayor of the traditionally conservative provincial capital, has expressed doubts about the main parties’ highway-building ambitions. And while Plante and other mayors have been vocal on issues such as social housing and gun control, Pilette said mayors are limited by what they can do because they depend on the province to fund most major projects, including public transit.

Plante on Tuesday rejected any suggestion that it will be mayors who form the true opposition to Legault. “That’s not what we want, for very practical reasons.”

However, Pilette said the mayors can still influence the political climate through their calls for funding, as well as through their decisions on distributing provincial funding for programs — something that falls within their responsibility.

And despite Plante’s stated desire to collaborate, Pilette said tensions will only rise between the province and its biggest metropolis if Legault chooses policies and cabinet ministers that favour the suburban areas around Montreal — that voted massively for his party — rather than the island.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2022.

 

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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10 Must-Read Novels About Asian American Politics – Publishers Weekly

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In Ryan Wong’s daring and generous debut novel, Which Side Are You On, Columbia University student Reed informs his parents that he’s dropping out of college and dedicating himself to grassroots organizing—for the past few months, he’s been protesting the killing of an unarmed Black man by an Asian American police officer. He’s adamant to learn everything he can about his Korean mother’s involvement in a Black-Korean coalition in the 1980s, so that he may use it to impress his other activist friends and fuel their current work. But the stories recounted by his mother and the discussions they engender—all carefully laid out in electric, and occasionally heartrending, dialogue between mother and son—start to affect Reed’s clear-cut views, revealing to him the many difficulties of organizing across cultures, and hinting at the importance of empathy and humanity in the effort to fully understand one’s community.

You might not know that “Asian American” is a relatively new term, only about fifty years old. You likely don’t know the term was coined by student leftists to join a coalition of Chicano, Black, and American Indian movements on Bay Area campuses in 1968. You might not think of Asian American Pacific Islanders as political as all, and this is largely because that history has largely been ignored or erased in favor of the tame, assimilationist “model minority” narrative.

Today, as we face intense anti-Asian violence, ongoing U.S. militarism in Asia, rapidly shifting migration patterns, and a crisis of American racial identity, it might help us to examine the political nature of Asian America through some of its most compelling narratives. Here’s a selection of ten novels that expand upon, challenge, and imagine futures for this young identity. They’re stories of rebels and revolutionaries, organizers and outsiders taking histories into their own hands.

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1. I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita

This sprawling, 700+ page epic pays tribute to the Asian American Movement that defined this new identity. It was written decades later, but has all of the humor, bite, hope, and surrealism you might expect from a novel of vignettes set in the Bay Area of the 1960s and ’70s—scenes of Black Panthers and young Asian American radicals in a hotel room in Chinatown, of an Alcatraz Island takeover, of free folk concerts in Golden Gate Park, and, of course, of the demonstrations to save that hotbed of organizing and elder care and arts making, the I Hotel. 

2. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The narrator of this novel talks to you, but the “you” of it is an ambiguous American who is in Lahore, Pakistan, for unknown reasons—to befriend the narrator, to kill him, or both. Like the confessor in Camus’s The Fall, we get a frank and revealing series of tales, but instead of the existential angst of the judge we have the racial existentialism of the man trying to belong in a world that won’t have him. It’s a reminder that often fundamentalists scorn the very systems in which they once came close to belonging. 

3. Leche by R. Zamora Linmark

Can a novel about Japanese war atrocities in the Philippines be funny? An early scene has protagonist Vince watching a maudlin drama on the airplane back to the Philippines (which he left for the U.S. 13 years before) about a convent during the Japanese invasion. To speak about the unspeakable, you may need the absurdities that pop culture makes possible, the distance of humor. The Manila of Leche is a hazy hell, but also one full of pathos and heart, and it leads Vince exactly where he needs to go.

4. Guerrillas by V. S. Naipaul

What would the Asian diaspora in the Americas be without Naipaul’s Trinidad, which he left to attend Oxford only to revisit again and again in his writing? Guerrillas takes place on an unnamed island on the eve of revolution. Naipaul is one of the original problematic faves—his sexual politics are horrifying, his view of revolution condescending. Yet he’s one of the greats at showing the extreme bifurcations that colonialism and diaspora perform on the human mind, whether the white liberal’s paternalism or the would-be revolutionary’s deluded egoism. 

5. Dogeaters by Jessica Hagedorn

This isn’t an “Asian American” story in the usual sense, but America’s presence is like a long shadow, a bogeyman, an uninvited dinner guest in this kaleidoscopic story of 1950s Manila. In other words, American stories happen anywhere America’s military and political presence rule, and their tacit condoning of the rise of an unnamed dictator and his glamorous first lady form the story’s backdrop. Hagedorn’s sentences bite and her scenes steam with heat as you follow this network of characters asking what they’ll do with their new-found “independence.”

6. Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee

This novel is often remembered as a portrait of a son and his working immigrant father. But it’s also a novel of politics, where some of the most tender and dynamic moments are between the narrator, Henry Park, and the city councilman John Kwang, who he’s assigned to spy on. John is charismatic and idealistic, a foil to Henry’s mercenary pragmatism. One of the crucial plot points revolves around a Korean money circle, or ggeh, one of the main ways Korean businesses survive, but to the U.S. state looks like money laundering. The novel asks what it means to succeed in a country designed to destroy you, to be loyal to people sent to undo you. 

7. America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan

Somewhere between novel and autobiography, America Is in the Heart has all the sweep, heroism, and tragedy of the old epics. We follow the narrator, also named Carlos, from his youth in the Philippines to the fields of California to the canneries of Alaska, where, witnessing the brutality against Filipinos by police, bosses, and business owners, he becomes radicalized. He joins socialist and communist groups, organizes with unions, and publishes poetry and essays on his experiences, the culmination of which is this monumental book.  

8. The Winged Seed by Li-Young Lee

Lee’s father was jailed under the regime of President Sukarno in Indonesia. That traumatic event shows up in Lee’s poetry and is a central feature of this poem-novel-memoir-myth of his family’s migration story. The book is called a “remembrance” and it reads like a dream, or, often, a nightmare, as the ravages of persecution and exile, of otherness and violence, manifest within and between Lee’s family members. History and displacement haunt this prose, every sentence drops like a stone, and the smallest moment sends you reeling to the past. 

9. Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

Dense yet sprawling, this experimental book traces Korean independence martyr Yu Gwansun through the stories of other mythic women martyrs in history. Cha was a visual artist, writer, and performer—a brilliant polymath who was murdered just as this book was published. Dictee shows what a book can be, that it’s capacious enough to contain photographs, verse, myth, and anything else the writer needs to assemble in order to speak about a fractured history.  

10. The Hanging on Union Square by H. T. Hsiang

It’s not hard to see why Hsiang had trouble finding a publisher for this oddball novel that reads something like a screenplay or a novel-in-verse but without the respective plot or lyricism that usually accompanies those forms. But he had the foresight to self-publish it in 1935, and it’s a good thing he did, because he offers a portrait of the vibrant and rough life in Greenwich Village through the eyes of Mr. Nut, who becomes politicized by the grind of the down-and-outs. He seems compelled by some manic force, conveyed through the novel’s prose—a heady mix of bohemianism and radicalism pushing the lines forward.

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Justin Trudeau says he’s ‘absolutely serene and confident’ he made right decision to invoke Emergencies Act

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ended his testimony at the inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act on Friday by saying politics had nothing to do with his government’s decision to invoke the legislation.

“My motivation was entirely about ensuring the safety of Canadians,” he said just before 4 p.m. ET in response to a question from government lawyer Brian Gover.

“My secondary motivation was making sure Canadians continue to have confidence in their institutions and society’s ability to function and enforce the rule of law when it’s not being respected. Politics was not the motivation at all in the invocation of the Emergencies Act.”

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Commissioner Paul Rouleau then asked the lawyers for various stakeholders if they had any other questions. When they said they did not, Mr. Rouleau thanked Mr. Trudeau for his testimony, which began just after 9:30 a.m. ET.

“Well, Prime Minister, I am very pleased to be able to tell you we have completed our work for the day with you,” he said.

Earlier Friday, Mr. Trudeau said the threats to Canada’s national security from last winter’s convoy protests were both economic and violent, and before he invoked the Emergencies Act the premiers were unable to suggest any alternative to using the sweeping powers to end the protracted demonstrations.

The Prime Minister was the final witness to testify at the inquiry studying the act’s use. Mr. Trudeau made the ultimate decision to invoke the never-before-used act on his own on Feb. 14, with the goal of ending protests that gridlocked the capital and jammed several border crossings across Canada.

“I am absolutely, absolutely serene and confident that I made the right choice,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Senior Political Reporter Marieke Walsh, Marsha McLeod and Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief Bill Curry

 

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‘Bad humour’ and short fuses: How politicians’ texts played out at the Emergencies Act inquiry

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The public inquiry investigating the federal government’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act in February has seen a huge number of documents that otherwise would never see the light of day — including politicians’ private texts exposing some embarrassing, and enlightening, conversations.

Politics is a profession prone to carefully crafted statements and rhetoric, so the text messages offered rare insights into the thought process of many key politicians — and a glimpse at tensions between governments.

Here are some of the stand-out text exchanges from the past few weeks.

‘Screwed the pooch’

According to text messages that Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Jason Kenney wrote, the then-premier of Alberta accused the federal government of not caring about the Canada-United States border closure in Coutts, Alta.

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Around dawn on Feb. 14, the RCMP arrested more than a dozen Coutts protesters and seized a cache of weapons, body armour and ammunition — just hours before the Emergencies Act was invoked.

Anti-COVID-19 vaccine mandate demonstrators gather as a truck convoy blocks the highway at the busy U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta. on Feb. 1, 2022. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

According to the messages LeBlanc shared with Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino three days earlier, Kenney accused the federal government of leaving the provinces holding the bag on protest enforcement.

The texts were brought up during Mendicino’s testimony and were in documents released by the inquiry this week.

In the texts attributed to Kenney, he also complained about the federal decision to decline Alberta’s request for military equipment that could help remove protesters’ vehicles.

One message said — in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — that “your guy has really screwed the pooch.”

“Speaking of bonkers,” Alghabra wrote in his text exchange with LeBlanc and Mendicino, apparently in reference to some of Kenney’s texts.

“Totally,” LeBlanc replied.

Ontario’s Sylvia Jones gives a cold response

The commission also got a glimpse of a testy call between Mendicino and Ontario’s solicitor general at the time, Sylvia Jones, about how to handle last winter’s convoy protests. Their conversation apparently included some colourful language.

Mendicino’s chief of staff Mike Jones and Samantha Khalil, director of issues management at the Prime Minister’s Office, discussed wanting Jones at the table during trilateral meetings.

“Can have my boss reach out again [to Sylvia Jones] but last call got pretty frosty at the end when [Mendicino] was saying we need the province to get back to us with their plan,” wrote Jones.

“‘I don’t take edicts from you, you’re not my f–king boss,” the staffer continued, describing Jones’ response.

‘Tanks’ text was a joke – Lametti

Mendicino was party to more than one text conversation that came up during the inquiry. One exchange with Justice Minister David Lametti generated some controversy during the inquiry hearings.

In that text exchange, Lametti told Mendicino he needed to “get the police to move” and secure support from the Canadian Armed Forces, if necessary.

“How many tanks are you asking for,” Mendicino wrote back.

“I just wanna ask Anita how many we’ve got on hand,” he added, referring to Defence Minister Anita Anand.

“I reckon one will do!” Lametti texted back.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino was party to more than one text conversation that came up during the inquiry. In this one from Feb. 2, he and Justice Minister David Lametti joked about calling in the Canadian Armed Forces. (Public Order Emergency Commission exhibit)

During his testimony at the inquiry, Lametti said he wasn’t calling for the deployment of the army and described the exchange as banter with a colleague and a friend.

“There will be occasional attempts at bad humour,” he said.

Lametti calls Ottawa police chief ‘incompetent’

A separate exchange of texts between Lametti and Mendicino appeared during Lametti’s testimony.

In those messages, Lametti shared some criticism of former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly, who resigned during the occupation of the city’s downtown streets last winter.

“They just need to exercise it and do their job,” texted Mendicino, referring to the Ottawa Police Service’s authority to enforce the law.

“I was stunned by the lack of a multilayered plan,” Lametti responded. “Sloly is incompetent.”

While Lametti said he’d now soften his language about Sloly, he told the inquiry he had to move out of his Ottawa residence during the protest to avoid harassment.

“I was frustrated, I have to admit,” he said. “It is frank.”

Trudeau, Blair take aim at Ford

During a private call with then-Ottawa mayor Jim Watson in early February, Trudeau accused Ontario Premier Doug Ford of hiding from his responsibilities as the streets of the nation’s capital were gridlocked by the protest.

 

Text messages between Emergency Prepadreness Minister Bill Blair and his chief of staff were entered into evidence at the Emergencies Act inquiry on Monday. (Public Order Emergency Commission exhibit)

 

The inquiry had access to a readout of that call — which is not an exact transcript of the conversation.

“Doug Ford has been hiding from his responsibility on it for political reasons, as you highlighted,” Trudeau said.

“Important we don’t let them get away from that.”

The prime minister wasn’t alone in criticizing Ford. Text messages from Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair to his chief of staff also shared a few choice words about the premier.

“I am embarrassed for my former profession. And worried for my government which is being made to look weak and ineffective,” Blair, a former Toronto police chief, said in a text message.

“I can’t believe that I’m hoping Doug Ford will save us.”

Government ‘is losing … confidence in OPS’

Politicians weren’t the only ones seeing their private text exchanges aired in public.

A text message from RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki released to the inquiry said the federal government was already losing confidence in the Ottawa police just one week into the massive protest.

The Feb. 5 texts were between Lucki — who was in a meeting with federal ministers at the time — and Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique.

Text messages between RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique were also brought up during the inquiry. Lucki’s texts are in blue. (POEC)

“Trying to calm them down, but not easy when they see cranes, structures, horses bouncing castles in downtown Ottawa,” she wrote.

She also provided insight into the government’s thinking at the time, adding that she or Carrique might be called in if the government invoked the Emergencies Act.

“Between you and I only, (Government of Canada) is losing (or) lost confidence in OPS, we gotta get to safe action (or) enforcement,” Lucki texted Carrique.

‘Friendly fire’

In one text exchange with Mendicino’s chief of staff, Serge Arpin, who was chief of staff to Mayor Watson, criticized Blair for saying the lack of enforcement was “somewhat inexplicable.”

“But it is friendly fire from you guys – don’t kid yourself,” Arpin wrote.

In a separate text in the same exchange, Arpin told Mike Jones that the RCMP was “lying to you flat out” about the police resources available.

Arpin told the inquiry that comment was the product of exasperation.

“Extraordinary frustration of having to tell the mayor that our residents who are now onto day 14 or 13 of the demonstration and we’re not seeing any meaningful progress in terms of additional bodies on the ground assisting [the Ottawa Police Service] with the operation,” he testified.

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